Ofsted to bring early years inspections in-house

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Early years organisations have unanimously welcomed Ofsted’s decision to bring early years inspections in-house from next year.

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The inspectorate has confirmed that all early years inspections and regulatory work will be carried out by inspectors directly employed by Ofsted from 1 April 2017.

The move means that it will have full control over the selection, training and management of early years inspectors, bringing the sector in line with inspections of schools and further education colleges.

The contracts for Tribal and Prospects, the organisations that currently carry out the early years remit for Ofsted, will end in March 2017.

Nick Jackson, Ofsted director of corporate services, said, 'Since 2010, our two early years inspection service providers have successfully delivered inspection work for Ofsted.

'As these contracts come to an end this is the right time to consider carefully what our next steps should be. We have decided that early years inspection should be brought in line with schools and further education and skills, with Ofsted directly managing all inspections. With our experience of bringing schools and further education inspections under our control, we are confident that we can manage this transition smoothly.'

The sector has long argued that nurseries and childminders should be inspected by Ofsted’s own inspectors, as is the case for schools and colleges, and many organisations have been actively campaigning for the move. Ofsted took over the running of inspections for schools and the FE sector last September from Serco, CFBT and Tribal.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association; said, ‘We welcome this move by Ofsted. NDNA called for Ofsted to bring early years inspection in house and put the sector on a level footing with schools and colleges, including making the case to the parliamentary Education Committee. 

‘Following the recent move by Ofsted to equalise inspection notice between early years and schools, it shows that the sector's voice is being heard.

‘We look forward to hearing more about the process for bringing inspection in house. Going forward, early years providers want to be assured of consistent, robust inspection and the recruitment, training and oversight of inspectors is crucial to this. A vital component of competency for inspectors is having relevant early years leadership experience.’

The Pre-school Learning Alliance echoed the sentiment. Chief executive Neil Leitch said, ‘This decision will not only bring the early years in line with schools and further education, but also help that future early years inspections are of a consistently high standard.

Liz Bayram, PACEY's chief executive said, ‘PACEY is delighted that Ofsted has taken this important step for early years, reinforcing that registered childcare providers deserve the same standards of inspections as schools. This measure will go a long way to help restore confidence in the inspection process among childcare professionals. PACEY will work hard to support Ofsted in how it implements this decision over the next two years given it is something our members have wanted for a long time.’

Catriona Nason, cheif executive of National Early Years Trainers & Consultants (NEyTCO), and one of the founders of the sector-led Ofsted Big Conversation campaign, said, 'We are delighted with the news that Ofsted is bringing early years inspections back in-house. This is great news for the sector, children and parents. It was the inspections by Tribal and Prospects since 2010 that created a need for Ofsted Big Conversation. The history is well known.

'We want to congratulate Ofsted on their decision and for their willingness to work with the sector to create a fairer inspection system.'

Unison, the union that represents early years inspection has welcomed the decision to bring early years inspection back ‘in house’. 

Ben Thomas, the union’s national officer said, ‘UNISON believes that the decision will improve the consistency, quality and accountability of early years judgements, that we believe have been compromised by the transfer to private companies.

‘It sends an important message that early years inspections are of equal importance as schools inspection. Bringing services back 'in house' will also improve the professional recognition of early years inspectors.

‘Unison campaigned strongly against the transfer in 2009 and we very much welcome Ofsted’s decision to reverse it.’

Ofsted had previously renewed contracts with Tribal and Prospects for early years inspections last summer to run until March 2017. However, it had already brought the inspection of 'requires improvement' early years settings in-house.

In a statement Prospects said it was 'very disappointed' with the Ofsted's decision.

'Over the last five years the innovative and quality services delivered through the outsourcing of early years inspection has led to significant quality improvements, as well as increased efficiencies.  

'We have developed a highly flexible, committed and talented workforce to deliver these improvements.

'Notwithstanding the above we will work closely with Ofsted to ensure an effective transition to the new arrangements.'

  • Read our exclusive blog from Gill Jones, Ofsted early education deputy director
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